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Britain Finally Foot And Mouth Free

Tue Jan 15, 2002 5:49 pm

From BBC

Britain has been officially declared free of foot-and-mouth almost 11 months after the first case of the disease was found, in a decision farmers say gives new hope for the industry's future.
There has been no new outbreak for three months in Northumberland - the county where the disease was initially traced - and tests on sheep there have proved negative.

It will still be several weeks before restrictions on livestock farmers can be lifted - and perhaps months before Britain can trade fully with the rest of the world.

The National Farmers' Union said the lifting of restrictions would remove a "long, dark shadow" from the countryside after 11 months of hell.

Many farmers are critical the government's handling the foot-and-mouth crisis and say far more should have been done to stop the disease spreading.

There were more than 2,000 cases in Britain in the 2001 outbreak and nearly six million animals have been destroyed.

The cost to farming - leaving aside any damage to tourism - stands at more than £2bn.

Export limits

A spokesman for the organisation that sets the worldwide guidelines on animal diseases says a final decision on Britain's foot-and-mouth free status could be made as early as next week.

Speaking on Radio 4's Farming Today programme, Dr Jim Pearson from the OIE - Office International Des Epizooties - says the organisation's Foot-and-Mouth Commission is meeting next week.

If the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs makes an application in time, this could be considered favourably by the commission.

OIE disease free status would allow Britain to export to the rest of the world - at present, only limited exports are allowed within the EU.

'Step forward'

Dougie Watkins, a sheep and cattle farmer from Berwick-Upon-Tweed in Northumberland, said of the all-clear: "Everybody will be just issuing a huge sigh of relief."

Mr Watkins' livestock were destroyed last April but he said he was well on his way to rebuilding his business.

But he said the government had many lessons to learn from the outbreak, and added: "The great worry is that the fundamentals of how it started aren't known."

Earlier on Monday rural affairs minister Lord Whitty told the House of Lords of Northumberland's change in status, describing it as "a good news announcement".

The move was "a major step forward" but was "not the end of the story or the end of the risk of the disease", he said.

"It will be some time, probably months, before our international partners restore our trading status in the European Union and beyond as a fully foot-and-mouth free state," Lord Whitty added.

Northumberland has been one of the areas worst affected by foot-and-mouth, with a total of 234,117 animals culled in the county since the outbreak began last year.

The county had one of the first confirmed cases at Heddon-on-the-Wall in February last year.

Controversial legislation

Lord Whitty was speaking as the second reading began of the Animal Health Bill, which aims to strengthen protection against future outbreaks of foot and mouth and other infectious diseases.

The controversial legislation would give government vets the power to enter a farm and slaughter all its animals and force farmers to help in the slaughter, with little right of appeal.

It was branded a "panic measure" and a "bad bill" by the opposition.

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that an inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Northumberland has been weakened by the absence of army and government officials.

Northumberland County Council is hosting a five-day investigation into the spread of the virus and how rural communities were affected.

The inquiry is being led by Professor Michael Dower, a former director general of the Countryside Commission and a lecturer in European rural development at the University of Gloucestershire.


She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
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RE: Britain Finally Foot And Mouth Free

Tue Jan 15, 2002 6:52 pm

Good - we can now start the other contagious disease: Food in Mouth.

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RE: Britain Finally Foot And Mouth Free

Tue Jan 15, 2002 7:18 pm

It is the end of the world's biggest barbecue. What was it, 4 million animals burnt? Something horrendous. Interesting to note that customs said that they do not believe they can stop illegal meat imports. Since that was the likely source of the outbreak I guess we can expect to get it again at some point.
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
BCal Dc10
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RE: Britain Finally Foot And Mouth Free

Tue Jan 15, 2002 8:32 pm

also, its unfortunate that our climate is exactly what it likes to spread quickly. Damp, mild and breezy. Those conditions mean its more likely to be found here than anywhere else.
Are we going to get the public inquiry about the way it was handled from His Tonyness? Doubt it, but you never know.
I live in the countryside and saw for myself the damage it did (plus I couldn't take my horses out) so I know how hard its been.
At least one head should roll....
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RE: Britain Finally Foot And Mouth Free

Tue Jan 15, 2002 8:50 pm

Thats great news, it was terrible seeing all those thousands of animals being slaughtered.

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